The first buyout window of the 2023 NHL off-season opened last week and doesn’t close until the end of this month.
It’s likely the Winnipeg Jets will hold off on going that route, if and when it comes down to deciding on how to part ways with Blake Wheeler.
Make no bones about it — the former Jets captain is probably looking forward to a change of scenery as much as GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and the hockey club would like to make that happen.
An unsuccessful attempt to trade Wheeler was made last summer. But is it in the best interest of the Jets to exercise this first window buyout option to complete that mission this time around?
CapFriendly and Puck Pedia have determined the buyout cost on the final year of Wheeler’s $8.25-million contract would work out to $5.5 million — a $2.75-million cap hit for each of the next two seasons.
But if the Jets were able to trade Wheeler before the start of the season and agree to retain up to, say, 50 per cent of his salary, by my calculations they’d reduce that cost by a million and change.
Laddy + Wheels checking in from Island Lake in northern Manitoba! pic.twitter.com/zMuWhcU51J
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) June 16, 2023
Yes, there would be a bigger cap hit in 2023-24. But there would be many more dollars at Cheveldayoff’s disposal the following season, when there figures to be a much superior free agent market than this July 1.
Wheeler does have a modified no trade/no move clause that allows him to pick the five teams he’d agree to go to. Expanding that list might be something to consider, unless one of those five teams has $4 million to $5 million in cap space, and the belief there’s still another 50-60 point season left in those soon-to-be 37-year-old legs.
With Pierre-Luc Dubois, Connor Hellebuyck, and perhaps Mark Scheifele on the move, there is the real potential for this to be a long winter for the Jets.
So whether it’s sticking it out here, or with another non-contending team until the March 1 trade deadline, it might come down to how strongly Blake Wheeler feels about putting Winnipeg in the rear-view mirror.
But with the potential for a “post-arbitration” second buyout window later this summer, the Jets don’t have to be in a hurry to find out.
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